Flatwoods Fish Catcher
By: Don Wirth
Ky. Sounds like banjos and hickory-smoked hams and '54 Ford
pickup trucks. And fishin'. Bass fishin’. In fact,
Kentucky sounds like a mighty fine place for a lure company
to be from.
it is. Flatwoods is the home of the maker of a crude-looking
little slab of stainless steel and lead and hooks called
the Silver Buddy. Which is a fish-catchin’ son-of-a-gun.
Hollow smallmouth ace Benny McBride (see "Secrets Of
A Small-mouth Guide," March 1985 BASS-MASTER) counts
the shiny little lure among his favorites for probing the
deepwater haunts of monster small-mouths.
Westmorland, the smallmouth bass king, wasn’t an easy
‘‘He didn’t get very excited at first," says Paul "Buddy" Banks
Jr., the creator of the Silver Buddy. Banks, a self-professed tinkerer, had
given Westmorland a handful of his homemade baits following a fishing seminar.
told Banks that he needed an in-between size for bass. He
had a small size and a big size, neither of which looked
right for small-mouths.
a yardmaster for the C & 0 Railroad, went back to the
drawing board and came up with an
"in-be-tween" version of his lure. After considerable field-testing
and refinement, the Silver Buddy was born.
first glance, the bait resembles popular swimming baits like
the Hed-don Sonar and Cordell’s Gay Blade. But Westmorland
points out differences: "The Silver Buddy has a wider
wobble than similar lures. It has a medium-fast fluttering
action, but not too frantic. It’s also excellent for
vertical jigging, and it won’t tangle up when you cast,
hop or jig it as often as will similar baits."
lure is made by stamping the body from stainless steel, then
pouring lead into the body in a mold, Banks explains. "We
experimented with many thicknesses of stainless before we
came up with the right action," he says. "The lure
has a different weight distribution than similar vibrating
is convinced it's the sound, as well as the flash, that causes
the Silver Buddy to provoke strikes. ‘‘The 2-inch
version (1/2 ounce), which is the size recommended most often
for smallmouths and large-mouths, produces tremendous sound
waves that enable bass to find the bait fantastic striper
lure, with 37-pounders reported. It’ll catch hybrids,
trout, crappie. walleye - it's unreal for jigging on
also good on catfish and saltwater fish like blues and specks," adds
versatile in the way it can be fished, too. Westmorland recommends
these tips for fishing the Silver Buddy and similar lures:
Hopping Retrieve. "Make a long cast and tight-line the
lure as it drops. Keep the line tight and pop it off the
bottom a few feet so it hops toward you. Let it fall back
on a tight line and 'ride' the lure back down to the bottom,
keeping your line as tight as you can. Strikes usually occur
as the lure drops." Westmorland employs this retrieve
in the winter, when he parallels banks and points no shallower
than 17 feet for smallmouths. "While the water on the
surface may be only 40 degrees. it will be 55 to 68 degrees
down deep where the smallmouths live," he indicates.
Of interest is his method of paralleling points: "I
parallel the point all the way around, starting at the 17-foot
parallel, then working out to 20, 25 feet, or deeper as needed." The
hopping retrieve is also good when the big smallmouths are
on the high spots, Westmorland's honey.
Slow Retrieve. "This retrieve is basically the same as
that used when fishing another excellent smallmouth lure.
the Spinrite," Westmorland said. "Make a long cast
and tight-line the lure to the bottom, watching your line
very closely. When the lure hits bottom. pop it off one time
and then begin a slow. steady retrieve all the way hack down
to the boat, following the contours of the bottom as closely
as possible. When swimming the lure in this manner, keep
your rod fairly low and out in front of you so you can stick
the bait in the fish's ear on the hit."
Verdical jigging." I use my graph to locate suspended
fish or bass near the bottom in deep water, then stay on
top of the fish with my flasher, which has the transducer
mounted on the trolling motor," Westmorland recommends. "If
the water is warm, I’ll let the bait free-fall to the
bottom; if it's cold, I’ll 'feel' it all the way down.
When it hits bottom, I'll snatch it up with a sharp sweep
of the rod, varying the height it jumps from a foot or so
to 5 or 6 feet, depending on what turns them on. I've caught
big largemouths, smallmouths and spots, as welf as some huge
walleyes by vertical jigging with this bait." In deep
water with brush, the bait may be modified by removing two
of the barbs from each treble hook if hang-ups are frequent.
He jigs the lure vertically in the winter and summer.
Schooling Retrieve. "The Silver Buddy is a tremendous
schooling-fish lure, not just on largemouths but on any fish
that schools," Westmorland says. "When you spot
breaking tish, cast past the surface action, hold the rod
high, and begin a fast, 'burning' retrieve near the surface.
It' the fish are coming up, breaking momentarily, then going
back down before you can get to them, cast past the last
surface action you saw, burn the Jure with a fast, shallow
retrieve, then let it drop on a tight line. Often the bass
will nail it as it falls, thinking it’s an injured
shad." A variation of this retrieve may also be used
for fishing the Silver Buddy in virtually any shallow-water
situation: "With the rod held high. cast the lure along
shallow structure such as flats and points, and retrieve
quickly and steadily. For brushy or weedy areas. clip two
of the barbs from each hook – I've caught big bass
in Florida in grassy places using this technique." Westmorland
finds most of his schooling fish in the summer and fall,
but says the fast, steady retrieve can be employed in most
"Shooting" Retrieve. This works well in spring and
fall, when fish are in the 6- to 15-foot zone on flats and
points. Make a long cast and tight-line the lure to the bottom,
with the rod at 10 o'clock. When it hits. don't move the
rod, just reel quickly five or six turns of the handle. Let
the lure drop and repeat all the way back to the boat. fishing
points by casting shallow and working the lure deep.
Silver Buddy must be fished with a snap or split ring (not
included with the lure), as it will cut your line if connected
directly to it. Banks recommends a light-wire snap rather
than a snap and .swivel, which will cause hang-ups when casting
or jigging the bait. Westmorland adds, "Expect to lose
a few. because this bait stays near the bottom – hut
that's where the fish are most of the time."
Silver Buddy comes in three sizes: 1/4 ounce (good for trout
and panfish), I/2 ounce (for largemouth and smallmouth bass,
walleyes and lake trout). and 3/4 ounce (for stripers and
fishing in heavy current).
BASS Fishing Annual 1986 By Don Wirth